London

Rebranding 'campus cops': New law says special constables can't be called police

The provincial government is putting a stop to special constables and their employers from using the term 'police' when identifying themselves, something that has caused a bit of an identity crisis for special constables. 
Western University said the incident was reported to campus police, and turned over to London police. (Campus Community Police Service - Western University/Facebook )

Students at Western University will have to find a different way to refer to their campus police. 

Under Bill 68 of the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, the provincial government is putting a stop to special constables and their employers from using the term "police" when identifying themselves, something that has caused a bit of an identity crisis for special constables who have been called police for years. 

"It's going to create more ambiguity than clarity," said Sarah Kennedy, the vice-president of the Ontario Special Constable Association, referring to the name change.

"It makes a difference in the way that our community interacts with us," Kennedy said. "Officers are already finding themselve having to negotiate their authority with the person they're dealing with instead of being able to resolve the conflict," she added, 

Special constables perform the same function as police officers. They respond to emergencies, conduct investigations and can arrest people; however, they do not carry firearms. 

"They're peace officers sworn in with police authority to enforce the laws within their jurisdiction," Kennedy said. 

Upon learning about the new law, the Ontario Special Constable Association recommended that special constables be referred to as peace officers, a recommendation that was not accepted by the provincial government. 

Kennedy expects the change will be a big financial burden to universities across the province, including Western University, who will have to rebrand their campus safety and security program which is referred to as "campus police." 

"There's uniforming, wrapping all the cars, changing all the signage, changing all the websites .... It's going to cost thousands and thousands " she said. 

What changes mean for Western 

While the bill that would require all these changes to happen has passed Keith Marnoch, the director of media and community relations at Western, said university has not been informed of the final regulations that will have to be implemented. 

"Discussions are continuing to see where we land," he said. "Our service is unique because we currently are granted the same authority as a public police officer through the London Police Services Board while we're on the Western campus," he added. 

Marnoch said when discussions are finalized, the university will make sure campus community members understand the service the campus police provides and the authority it holds, regardless of the terminology that is used to refer to it.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now